HDD buying / upgrading guide

HDD buying - upgrading guide

When it comes to buying a hard drive, there are many things to consider. Speed, capacity, and price are all important factors. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the different types of hard drives available and help you choose the best one for your needs. We’ll also discuss some of the pros and cons of each type of drive. So whether you’re in the market for your first hard drive or you’re just looking to upgrade, read on for advice on what to buy.

As technology advances, how we use and store data changes as well. It’s important to understand the different types available and what will work best for your needs.

So, whether you’re looking for a desktop hard drive, laptop hard drive, or something else entirely, keep reading for tips on how to make the right purchase.

First, let’s briefly discuss the different types of hard drives available. If you’re looking for an HDD (hard disk drive), there are three things to keep in mind: size, speed, and interface type.

If you plan on using your hard drive with a desktop computer or other stationary device, you will want to focus on speed and size. If you need portability, however – think laptops and handheld devices – size should be your main concern.

Now let’s take a look at each type in more detail. We’ll also explain how to choose the best one for your needs.

Standard HDDs

First up is the HDD, which has been around for over 50 years. This is what most of us think of when you say hard drive. To keep things simple, I’ll mostly discuss 3.5-inch HDDs in this article, but the information will work for 2.5-inch or even 1.8-inch drives too – it’s just a question of scale (so read on if you use laptops or smaller devices). Just remember that there are pros and cons to each size type when it comes to speed, power consumption, weight, noise level, reliability… you name it… so be sure to check all that before you buy!


For stationary desktop computers or servers with large storage needs – i.e. if you are thinking of buying a multi- Terabyte storage box – your best bet is to go with 7200 RPM hard drives which offer significantly better performance than slower 5400 RPM models can provide. This can make quite a significant difference in file transfer rates, boot-up times, and the overall responsiveness of an operating system or group of applications that rely on large amounts of reading / write operations (like databases or media editing suites).

What HDD RPM do I need?

Get a 7200rpm one, as it’s much faster than 5400rpm. However, if you care more about space than speed – go for a 5400rpm drive (such speeds are sufficient even for gamers). If you want both speed AND storage an SSD may be the right choice for you. They are blazingly fast – but they cost too much at the moment so they might not be worth it just yet. Be careful of buying used HDDs as well – some users report various problems with them (from bad sectors to viruses) so always check HDD’s health before purchasing it especially since you’ll be using it for a storage device.

Most standard desktops have 5400RPM drives that spin their disks at 5400 rotations per minute. The average laptop has a 7200RPM drive plus it has less space so the price for the mobile drive is higher than for a desktop one at the same capacity. As both categories of disks are used for gaming, you should consider what type of gameplay you prefer when deciding between them. For example: if you play online multiplayer with your friends on evenings and weekends – anything from 5400 up will serve you well as those games use HD much but connect to the server rather than download stuff. If you’re more into single-player campaigns and watch HD movies on your PC as well (and some games, like Battlefield 3 use HD a lot) consider getting 7200RPM one as it’ll help you to transfer data faster and load map or level quicker.

Note: Higher RPM rate doesn’t mean a better quality disk but it does make the gameplay smoother and faster and makes videos and animations look crisper (7200RPM is standard for the newest SSD drives). However you can get a 5400RPM asynchronous drive that’s quieter than its 7200RPM counterpart – so if noise irritates your neighbors at night, grab one of those!


Now that we know what kind of HDD fits our PCs best, let’s talk about capacity. If you’re reading this article there’s a big chance that you’re looking for more space than just lately used files to store multimedia content like games, music, movies, or pictures. You want it all – but you can’t have it now, or later either. That’s the hard truth nowadays – you’re going to run out of space at some point. How much is enough?

Back in 2015, 1TB was a decent size for most users but today we’ve seen the market flooded with 3TB drives (about to get even greater with 4TB) and one can comfortably use a ~4TB drive for their everyday needs. All these are reasonably priced nowadays too, so there isn’t much sense in going any lower. Sure you might never need that many terabytes today but it’s always better to have more storage than needed rather than less.

How much do I need?

2TB is enough for most users, but if you have a vast collection of games/movies/music/programs – go for 3 or 4 TB. You can also consider RAID setups, but they come at a price of speed loss and hassle when backing up your data in case of failure. A much simpler and faster option is to buy a second drive and keep your backup on it.

It all depends on your needs. If you want to store all that stuff on one drive, then go for no less than 2TB these days. You’ll soon hit that limit though and might find yourself looking for a replacement at least a year from today. But if you need even more storage, RAID setups are an option worth considering, although they come with their setbacks in terms of speed and backup procedures (in case one HDD fails).

For gaming purposes, you’ll want 120-1TB depending on how much space games take up (for example Halo 4 takes 48GB). You can get lower capacity like 80-90GB for your OS and a few games that take up a lot of space (Crysis 3 for example takes 48GB).


SSDs are very fast but currently pretty expensive when compared to their HDD counterparts, especially when the HDD is of equal or greater size. I recommend getting at least a 120GB drive (if you’re buying one for gaming) unless you’re poor. If you want an OS to drive then get something like 60-80GB and use your others drives for games if space becomes tight.

The best way to go is SSDs because they are very fast, much faster than any HDD. They cost much more per GB though. They’re also great to speed up loading times in games since load times now aren’t limited by your read/write speeds (besides the initial load screen). You want at least 120-180GB but depending on how many games you play you can go higher. If you only play Skyrim, Fallout, and Mass Effect 3 you can go as high as 500GB. If you play more than that (and you probably do) then put it below.

Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD)

An SSHD is a standard HDD with an 8GB SSD inside. It can be very useful because it will speed up your game loading times, especially if it’s an older game. It also allows you to use the SSHD for Steam storage so no need to buy extra Steam games if space becomes tight. The only downside is that they are slower than pure SSDs so not preferable if you want large storage over speed. These drives are the same thing but marketed differently by Seagate and Western Digital respectively. They are an HDD with some SSD inside of them, so you have a huge storage capacity at a much lower cost than an actual SSD. They are still faster than normal HDDs though because it’s the SSD caching all your commonly used files for lightning speed access! Note that their performance is not as good as an actual SSD, so I recommend getting one only if you don’t have enough money for an actual SSD or don’t see the need for one (most average users).

The best choice right now seems to be hybrid SSHDs, but they’re still hard to find and not many people know about them. I think Seagate does some but SSHDs are still rare.

Before you make a decision, consider if you need..

SSD/HDD 2.5″ or mSATA or M.2?

If you are looking to buy a new laptop check out the specs, if it is an ultrabook chances are it’s super thin and has no room for an HDD but only an SSD. If your laptop does have a standard SATA port then the decision becomes much harder because each of them comes with its advantages and disadvantages which I will go over now:

For home use where capacity isn’t much of concern go with an HDD as they are generally cheaper and can be found in larger storage capacities compared to SSDs. You have your choice between Seagate, Western Digital (WD), Toshiba, and Hitachi however Seagate is the most reliable and has the best price/performance ratio. For a desktop PC go with an HDD as they are still better value for money in terms of performance/price, same brands apply here except Samsung also makes good HDDs.

2) Do you want just storage or speedy storage?

If you’re filling your drive then go with an SSD. They come in all shapes and sizes from 128GB to 1TB which means that they can be used as a boot disk for any operating system (OS). The only drawback is that they don’t have much capacity compared to their HDD counterparts but this isn’t an issue nowadays because cloud computing has become widespread. If speed is more important than capacity go with a hybrid SSD/HDD. SSHDs are very fast and can store a lot of data in comparison to HDDs but they come at the cost of a limited number of reads and writes, this is why it is important to understand what you’re going for.

3) Is money an issue?

If budget isn’t much of a problem then go with 2TB-4TB HDD from any reputable brand. If you have little money then get yourself a 500GB HDD or even 320GB if possible from a reliable brand that includes a warranty in case the drive dies unexpectedly within the first 24 months. There are many cheap brands out there so be careful when buying something cheap, read reviews about them before deciding to buy one.

4) Am I planning to upgrade the HDD in the future?

If you are planning to upgrade the HDD later on, go with 2TB-4TB HDD. It will allow you to store more games which will make it easier for you to choose what game to play. If there is no intention of upgrading then 500GB or 1TB would be just fine.

5) What kind of motherboard am I using?

Many motherboards have only 1 SATA cable connection so if that’s the case then only one hard drive can be attached using a cable. Make sure that your motherboard has at least two SATA connections so that two HDDs can be connected simultaneously.

If you are looking to upgrade your hard drive or simply to have a chat with our computer/laptop upgrade specialists, do not hesitate to call us.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...